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Klaus Esterluß | Ideas

The President calls to act – Obama’s climate speech

US-President Barack Obama gave a speech on climate change yesterday. His words could lead to a milestone-process for US climate politics. He made clear that the United States have to play a leading role in the world’s ambitions to tackle global warming.
The plans the president rolled out are foreseeable wide-ranging, including a limit on carbon pollution for the first time in US history.

Emissions need to fall by 17 percent until 2020, the President said. This will “put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution.”

The emissons already dropped last in 2012 on the lowest amount in 20 years. But not for climate security reasons. The moderate economic developement of the United States and the growing use of natural gas (which has an lower amount of carbon dioxide) rather were responsible for the decreasing numbers.

The exact plans

According to the speech he held in Washington, the United States would boost the production of renewable energy, increase efficiency standards and prepare communities to deal with higher temperatures.

So what exactly the president wants to happen?

The energy that is harnessed from sun and wind should be doubled, according to Obama. That makes a power supply for more than six million househoulds in the US. The president also spoke about the highly debated Keystone Pipeline-project, that is planed to transport tar sand-oil from Canada to refineries at the Gulf of Mexico. This pipeline will only be build if it „does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.“

Another point was the building of a new nuclear power plant, the first one in 30 years. In opposition to Germany for example US still count on nuclear power as a green and save source of energy.

Impacts for the private sector

Obamas plans also reach for the private sector as well. Besides a fuel consumption that is now enlarged from cars to trucks the President wants to fight the waste of energy in private homes, public buildings or companies by supporting building insulation or energy saving light sources.

So, the speech offers a lot of plans. But what can be done? Nothing can be established immediatly, there’s always a long process about a few years. And Obamas presidency lasts for three more years. But at least the plans would be put in place through an executive order, bypassing the Congress, which has stalemated over climate legislation in recent years.

During his presentation the audience could literally see what all this is about: The oppressive heat of June often forced beads of sweat on the presidents forehead.

Date

June 26, 2013

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Klaus Esterluß | Ideas

Make a promise, help save the oceans

Ideas For Change LogoWhat can you promise yourself that will in some way help protect the world’s oceans? That’s the question today, on World Oceans Day. It’s an event meant to honor what is one of the world’s main protein sources –  the oceans. We definitely need to save our ‘blue gold’. In 2011 alone, 131 million tons of fish ended up on dinner plates worldwide.

To celebrate this year’s event, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has released a short animated film narrated by American oceanographer Sylvia Earle. “The world is blue,“ she says. The message is clear – all of us need to take better care of the world’s oceans and stop using them as dumping grounds for garbage. We also need to stop  overfishing them and drilling into the ocean floor in the hunt for oil.

If you want to get a glimpse at what the future of the world’s oceans might look like,  the WEF has also released an infographic. It’s definitely worth a click.

World Oceans Day had been unofficially celebrated since 1992 and was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008. Ever since,  the day has a special theme each year.  This year, the event’s organizers want you to make a promise to change one thing in your lives that will help protect the ocean. The idea is to upload a photo of the promise to social media plattforms – make sure you mention #WorldOceansDay.

Date

June 8, 2013

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claudij | Ideas

Fracking: Promised Land

Following the international premiere of “Promised Land” at the packed Berlinale film festival press conference in Berlin last week, actor Matt Damon said the movie, directed by Gus van Sant which deals with fracking,  is a film about American identity but at the same time a global issue.

The film’s international premiere was accompanied by news agencies announcing that Russian gas company and  exporter Gazprom plans to cut gas prices for European customers in the billions in 2013. According to several experts, this maneuver could be linked, besides strong competition in the liquefied gas export sector, directly to sinking gas prices: the fracking boom in the US is believed to have already lowered international gas prices even though the US is not exporting gas (yet!) to Europe.

It’s yet another example of the so-called US shale gas revolution that’s already transforming the political global power structure. And it looks like fracking will likely increase globally for geostrategic, power and profit reasons in the next years.

“Promised Land” takes place exactly against this backdrop. It takes an in-depth look at how the industry operates  and shows the possible consequences by using an intelligent and precise analogy of a psychological war happening in the US in areas with huge underground gas reservoirs. It focuses on how a nine-billion-dollar corporation tries to get its hand on much-needed land, how they operate psychologically and what alternatives citizens are left with. The film shows how the corporate salesman Steve Buttler (Matt Damon) and his colleague Sue Thomason (Francis McDormand) work hard to buy the village community with some entertaining and clever twists and turns of the plot.

The main aim of the film obviously is to raise awareness among people and to get them to think deeply about the dynamics and consequences of fracking. Matt Damon said after the premiere that if you are searching for more in-depth information about the fracking process you should research online. It would be simply impossible to lay out all the pros and cons of fracking in one feature film but it’s still packed with information.

The movie avoids black and white clichés, but it’s pretty clear that the makers of the film care about the “small people” and how big corporations are trying to manipulate them with scare tactics and playing on existential fears – circumstances which have heightened in the last decades through an unsustainable neoliberal capitalistic system.  It is pretty clear that the corporation in the movie is a child of that system and that the same unregulated system produced and created in many ways the situation the village’s residents are in right now: earning less money, living in constant fear of losing their jobs, drowning in debt, not being able to give their children a decent education, not knowing if they can die with dignity.

The film addresses all these issues but it hasn’t been too successful in the US. It remains to be seen how it will fare at the international box office and what impact it will have on the ongoing fracking debate.

Date

February 20, 2013

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Ranty Islam | Ideas

Scientists turn trash into crude energy

Back to the Future Fan Club Magazine #1 - Winter 1989
Remember Doc Brown? That crazy, white haired caricature of a scientist from the 1980s blockbuster scifi comedy Back to the Future? He’s the inventor of a spectacular (and – sadly – fictitious) device called the flux capacitor that is running first on plutonium, later on ordinary household garbage to power a time machine. Here’s what it looks like when Doc Brown is searching for fuel:

Scientists in Denmark have now hit upon a novel way to do just that: producing energy from household waste. While not quite matching Doc Browns achievement when it comes to the amount of energy harvested (let alone building a time machine) the scientists’ feat is impressive enough:  Feeding  biomass (comprising anything from sewage, compost, household garbage or waste from meat and dairy production) into what is essentially a 400 °C hot pressure cooker they managed to create something very close to fossil crude oil. What’s more, the production process used is more energy efficient than any other way of getting energy out of biomass.

We figure, if the Danish research team is still unhappy with the energy yield of their trash, they only have to wait another two years for expert help: In Back to the Future – Part II we learn that Doc Brown is going to visit us in 2015.

Date

February 7, 2013

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claudij | Ideas

Fracking in a Nutshell (Part 5)

We’re ending our blog series about the hydraulic fracturing method with a selective overview about particular occurrences connected with fracking which may lead you deeper into the layers of the fracking process.

# The movie “Gasland” by director Josh Fox in 2010, has become a popular basis for discussions about fracking. The director and activist set a milestone with his work, raising some key questions that marked the public discussion in the US. Perhaps we can mention two specific incidents to underline the far-reaching impact of his work.

#  The Independent Petroleum Association of America felt obliged to send a detailed public letter to the Oscar Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in February 2011. It was a reaction to the Oscar nomination for “Gasland.” The eight-page paper which contradicts every single theory in the film about the harm and damage resulting from fracking ends laconically with the words: “Anything we miss? Guess we’ll be seeing you at the movies. Maybe not this one, though.”

# The IPAA financed a documentary which has been available on the internet since June 2012 and which contradicts every premise of Gasland, it’s called Truthland.

# At the beginning of 2012, the New York Times gathered and published with a short statement hundreds of leaked intern industry e-mails, which showed the majority were sceptical about the fracking boom: “Over the past six months, The New York Times reviewed thousands of pages of documents related to shale gas, including hundreds of industry e-mails, internal agency documents and reports by analysts. A selection of these documents is included here; names and identifying information have been redacted to protect the confidentiality of sources, many of whom were not authorized by their employers to communicate with The Times.”

# Environmental activist Erin Brokovich called fracking not specifically “longterm solution-driven” in a TV interview  in August 2012 as she gathered a ton of e-mails from anxious US citizens living in areas which might be affected by fracking and as she claimed: “Let’s stop the bullshit and get down to finding some solutions to our problems.”

# Recently “Promised Land,” the first Hollywood fiction film about fracking was released in US cinemas and led to a huge discussion even before it was shown to the public. “The energy industry is worried that it will be presented in a critical light and is preparing possible responses, such as providing film reviewers with scientific studies, distributing leaflets to moviegoers and launching a ‘truth squad’ initiative on Twitter and Facebook,” the Journal said.

Additionally, here are some international events connected with fracking which one might not necessarily have expected.
# Speculations say Russian oil company Gazprom is interested in seeing an European fracking ban. “Some predict what was once unthinkable: that the U.S. won’t need to import natural gas in the near future, and that Russia could be the big loser.”

# It is said that  Exxon Mobil thanks to fracking became fond of Siberia:

“According to reports, the Russian government is placing its hopes on Exxon Mobil to help it unlock oil trapped in the Bazhenov shale formation in Western Siberia. Estimates say that the block could 13 billion barrels of oil and Rosneft and Exxon are targeting old fields in the region that no longer produce oil.”

# Several Indian farmers supposedly “profit” from the Fracking Boom:

“US companies drilling for oil and gas in shale formations have developed a voracious appetite for the powder-like gum made from the seeds of guar, or cluster bean, and the boom in their business has created a bonanza for thousands of small-scale farmers in India who produce 80 percent of the world’s beans.”

# Famous artists such as Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and Susan Sarandon are campaigning against fracking. They are touring together through different US states to discuss the issue.

# Fracking finally has also entered  popular fiction: Comics, romance novels and Grisham-esque thrillers are already dealing with it.

It’s fair to say that fracking is unlikely to disappear in the upcoming years in the global energy supply discussion. Whether you want to get deeper into the subject, campaign against it or are simply interested in the economic outcome, we hope the blog gave you a good overview of the subject.

 

Date

January 30, 2013

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